The fuel gauge on the Brutal Luck, the plane stolen by Araby Schmidt and Thoroughgood when they fled Milwaukee, was blinking red. Generally not a good sign, and upon further inspection Thoroughgood realized that the fuel tank was dangerously close to empty. They had the map on the back skin of former slave Rufus Thaddeus Scott detailing the location of Government Secrets in Washington DC, so they decided to go as far as they could east.
As far as they could took them over the waters of Lake Superior and past the interior of Michigan. With the plane running on fumes, they spotted a beacon in the distance – Detroit, with the lights still on in an area where most of the people had died or moved away. Thoroughgood brought the Brutal Luck in for a smooth water landing on the Detroit River.
The two survivors could see people moving about the streets of the city, and they realized that Detroit was one of the various Mayoralties that dotted the United States east of the Rockies. Similar to the Italian city-states that rose up between the 10th and 15th centuries, these cities were havens for the people of the area who otherwise had to contend with bandits, fierce weather – and worse.
They docked the Brutal Luck and locked it up tight before heading into the city proper. The population since the Serpentfall 5 years ago had dropped dramatically, to the point where only the central part of Detroit was occupied. Asking around, Araby learned that Tiger Stadium, west of actual downtown, had been turned into a makeshift refugee camp, and that the bosses around town were the United Auto Workers Union. Though only a handful of the auto factories in town were still operational, the power of the Union was still strong and seemed to command all aspects of daily life in Detroit.
Araby and Thoroughgood made their way to Tiger Stadium, and as they did they passed by several groups of armed thugs working for the Union. Some of these guarded particular buildings, while others simply patrolled the area. Tiger Stadium was jam-packed with families and people who had just moved to Detroit but had not yet been approved for full citizenship, which provided “protection” from hostile elements along with steady jobs. The two survivors also learned that the only currency worth a damn in Detroit, and indeed it seemed most of the Poisoned Lands, was a bullet. A precious commodity in these harsh times, and the only thing of value since the Serpentfall to most people.
Considering they had stolen quite a bit from the Warlord of Milwaukee, Araby and Thoroughgood decided that staying the Brutal Luck was the best idea for the night. But not before Araby had enjoyed a fine meal at a “ritzy” restaurant in the ballpark called Langford’s on the Stadium. He also purchased a copy of the 1939 Colliers World Atlas and Gazetteer, and learned that the person who controlled the fuel reserves in Detroit was also the head of the Union – Jimmy Hoffa. If they wanted fuel they had to talk to Jimmy.
They returned to the Brutal Luck for the evening, where Thoroughgood discovered strange barnacles had attached themselves to the underside of the plane. They were a sickly green color and left a trail of slime, but seemed very difficult to remove. The two survivors spent the night in the plane, and got up the next morning to see Jimmy Hoffa.
After asking around they learned that the Union was based out of the nicest hotel in Detroit, the Riverside Hotel, and that security was tight. But when they explained to the thugs that they were willing to work odd jobs to pay for fuel, they were led up to the top floor. Jimmy Hoffa, a gruff serious man, greeted them coldly and got down to business right away.
Detroit had a problem, he explained, and when Detroit has a problem, he has a problem. This problem was the mysterious disappearance of women in the night over the past several weeks. Normally, Jimmy wouldn’t care – the men worked, and the women were just good for cooking. But when the women disappear the morale of the men goes down, and that is his problem. He had already hired a freelance Amerind named Bud Fierceweather to look into the situation, but given the two newcomers eagerness for fuel, decided to give Bud a few helping hands. Once the mystery of the disappearing women was solved, Jimmy promised Araby and Thoroughgood fuel for their plane.
After their meeting with the leader of the Union they met with Bud Fierceweather, who was an Amerind (Apache, perhaps) former soldier who also seemed to have a nose for ferreting out trouble. Bud claimed to have felt a dark presence behind the kidnappings but lacked the social skills necessary to start asking around. Thoroughgood wanted to try salvaging parts for the plane, so they split up – Araby and Bud headed into Tiger Stadium to start asking questions while Thoroughgood explored the abandoned parts of Detroit for parts.
In Tiger Stadium the two learned that people had seen strange lights on the Detroit River and a dull roaring sound on the nights of the disappearance. Unfortunately they learned little else, or thought so, and as night approached they were joined by Thoroughgood (who was largely unsuccessful on his salvage trip). Araby and Bud decided to spend the night in the Wolverine Hotel while the mechanic returned to the Brutal Luck.
That night at the Wolverine Hotel, Araby and Bud were awoken by the sudden attack of a group of dark clothed cultists wielding swords! Araby’s quick reflexes and Bud’s fierce nature overcame the attackers, who shouted out praise to the “Schlange Gott” in German. They left none alive for interrogation.
Bruised from the previous night’s attack, the survivors once again probed Tiger Stadium and downtown Detroit for answers. They learned from a German immigrant family that “Schlange Gott” meant Snake God but otherwise no details were learned. Bud suggested that they camp out the night by the river and see if anyone comes ashore, and the other two agreed. That night they waited along the broken shoreline of the Detroit River, and their patience was rewarded.
Strange lights appeared in the river followed by a churning sound, which Thoroughgood recognized as an underwater motor of some kind. A group of dark clothed men came to shore suspiciously, again wielding swords and long daggers, but they were picked off by the skilled rifle shots of Bud and Araby. Thoroughgood managed to disable one of them for interrogation as they all witnessed the source of the strange lights – a submarine submerged beneath the surface of the river!
The three men interrogated the prisoner, who claimed that the sacrifice to the “Schlange Gott” would happen tomorrow night on Death’s Head Island. He laughed at the futility of trying to stop it all, and had his throat cut by Araby in return. They now had a clue and an idea, and went immediately into Tiger Stadium to start asking around.
Their questioning brought them to The Spittoon, a dirty bar in the dirtiest part of Detroit. There they met up with a Captain Samuel Stern, well into his cups, who told them that Death’s Head Island was out on Lake Eerie – a desolate bit of land where no shrub nor tree would grow. He gave them general directions on how to get there, and warned of terrible things that dwelt in Lake Eerie, monsters and such. He was clearly intoxicated.
The next morning they set out in the Brutal Luck, flying east on what little gas they had and hoping against hope that they wouldn’t run out of fuel along the way. In order to conserve gas Thoroughgood landed the plane near where Captain Stern had said the island was located, and they decided to head out in the lifeboat carried onboard from there. The waters of Lake Eerie were rough and cold, and a drizzling freezing rain had started to fall. After they spent most of the day paddling around, searching for their destination, Bud’s sharp Amerind eyes caught sight of it.
Night was approaching, and they could see torches held by men on the island. They paddled up as close as they could as quietly as they could, and as they did they saw a huge bonfire light up on the center of the island. Men danced and chanted around the fire dressed in German uniforms! They had a dozen women tied up to poles surrounding the fire, and their chanting was reaching a fevered, howling pitch in the rainy night. Lightning flashes streaked across the sky.
Araby and Thoroughgood waded to shore as quietly as they could while Bud stayed in the boat (since he was a better shot with the rifle). As he watched the two approach the ritual scene, Bud felt an unnatural movement in the water below him. Something large had just swam past his boat. As he took his first shot and the cultists took notice of the intruders everyone got a good glimpse of the Schlange Gott when it rose from the water – a massive water snake! It knocked Bud into the water and slithered up the shores of the island.
Bud reached the shore and picked off cultists while Araby charged forward to attack the Schlange Gott, heroically protecting the women. Thoroughgood worked on taking out the cultists and freeing the women. The battle was tough, and Araby was bit several times and almost squeezed to death, but with mighty hacks of blade and shots of rifles the Schlange Gott was defeated. The German cultists were defeated, and the women rescued.
The three had to ferry the women back to the Brutal Luck in shifts, but they managed to get everyone on board and flew to Detroit. They did not have enough cargo room to carry the snake’s body (much to Thoroughgood’s chagrin) but they did take the massive head, which was proof enough for Jimmy Hoffa that the menace had been taken care of.
As promised a full tank of fuel was delivered to the Brutal Luck. With their job now complete for the Union, Araby and Thoroughgood again set their sights on the elusive Government Secrets, and decided that three of them had a better chance of finding the treasure than two, and thus asked Bud to accompany them. The Amerind agreed, sensing a higher purpose in his calling, and the three of them prepared to leave Detroit with a full tank of gas.
- “Araby” Schmidt, gangster
- Thoroughgood, mechanic
- Bud Fierceweather, Amerind holy warrior